July 20, 2021
By Gina Morigeau, Medical Aesthetician
Summer is the most important time of year to practice sun safety.
In Montana, our residents like to make the most of the pleasant summer weather by spending as much time outside as they can -- hiking, fishing, boating, and enjoying all summer has to offer. That means most of us are also increasing our skin’s exposure to the sun. It’s important to remember that a sunburn or tan is visible skin damage. This sun damage to skin is cumulative, meaning that each sunburn increases your risk of developing skin cancer.
While it’s not feasible to avoid the sun altogether, here are a few important things we can all do to help keep our skin safe and healthy this summer.
Wear sunscreen! Sunscreen is essential to overall skin health. It decreases your risk of developing skin cancers and helps prevent premature skin aging. It’s much easier to prevent sun damage than it is to correct sun damage. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends daily use of an SPF 15 or higher for anyone over the age of 6 months. When outside for an extended period of time, the foundation recommends SPF 30 or higher.
Apply enough sunscreen! One ounce of sunscreen is enough to provide coverage for the entire body. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours or more frequently if you are swimming or sweating heavily. Look for sunscreens that offer “broad spectrum” protection. This means it protects your skin from UVA and UVB rays. There are two different types of sunscreens on the market – chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens (oxybenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, avobenzone) absorb UV rays while physical sunscreens (zinc oxide, titanium dioxide) act as a shield to UV rays.
Wear protective clothing! Sunscreens act as a filter to reduce your chances of skin damage and block about 97 percent of the UV rays that hit your body. What you wear can provide further protection. Clothing with ultraviolet protection (UPF) provides great protection. A wide brimmed hat can help shade your eyes, ears, face, and neck. Don’t forget UV-blocking sunglasses to add an extra layer of protection around your delicate eye area.
Avoid excessive exposure during peak hours! The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. When possible, plan to be out of direct sunlight during these hours. If that isn’t an option, be diligent about applying and reapplying sunscreen every two hours and wear protective clothing.
Don’t forget skin exams! According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world. It is also the most preventable. Early detection is key, so make sure you are performing at-home self-exams looking for any new, changing or unusual spots as well as seeing your dermatologist annually for a professional skin exam.
By taking these steps, you can enjoy the sunshine and beautiful weather while doing your best to avoid damaging your skin. Stay safe this summer!
Gina Morigeau is a Medical Aesthetician at the St. Peter’s Health Plastic Surgery and Medical Aesthetics clinic.